Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

November 2, 2009

After a pleasant evening at Bent Tree, we got up early and drove to Blue Ridge and found the train and ticket office for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. We were early enough that we could go over to the LL Beanery for a nice breakfast. We enjoyed the small town atmosphere and friendliness.

After breakfast we had time to explore around the train and the area.

There were several enclosed cars available, but on this nice day we had chosen to ride on one of the open air cars. They explained that these cars had been reconstructed from some standard passenger cars they had bought from a New York railway. They had constructed long benches on these cars, and we all sat on the side to watch the Toccoa River when we got underway. Brenda and Sherry at left stand at the end of our car.

We were cautioned to keep our heads and cameras inside the car, which was good advice as we passed close to other cars on a siding. But soon we were out in the country and only had limbs to worry about. It was pleasant to sit and watch the countryside go by.

At left above is our view of the front of the train as we wound through the woods, and at right above is the view toward the back of the train as it passes over a stream. There was an engineer in the front engine, but on the way out, the rear engine was actually pushing the train.

We passed some hills just minutes out of Blue Ridge with some nice houses, but that was the only high ground we saw. We reached this view of the Toccoa River about ten minutes out and followed the river the rest of the way to McCaysville.

We could watch the front engine just ahead of us as it made the curves along the river bank, but more of the train was behind us, so we watched it snake around the curves, often very close to the bank of the Toccoa River.

We got lots of pleasant views of the Toccoa River from the train. At times it was deep and narrow and tranquil through grassy banks, and at other times wide and shallow with lots of rock and rapids.

One remarkable view was that of a very well preserved fish trap in the Toccoa River. The guide book locates it between mile markers 386 and 387 of the railway and says that it was in place when the first settlers arrived in the area. Constructed from river rock, the V structure points downstream. It is generally accepted that it was constructed by early Indians in the area. They would crowd fish down the narrowing rock structure and be waiting with nets at the narrow end. Such fish traps are found in a number of rivers in the southeast. Our guide said that the river level was optimum for seeing the structure.

As the engine moved ahead at a liesurely pace alongside the river, we got nice views of the rapids in this part of the Toccoa River.

As we approached McCaysville, we were again reminded to keep our heads and cameras inside the car. This time they were really serious because we went across a steel-structured bridge across the Toccoa River and a road. The bridge was so narrow it must not have cleared the train by more than six inches on each side. This railway bridge might not have been otherwise notable to us except that Mark had had a memorable job on that bridge in preparation for part of a movie shoot. It was the very narrowness of the bridge that got him the job - he welded catwalks and a steel-railed platform on t he sides of the bridge so they could get movie personnel and equipment out there.

As the train eased into the town of McCaysville, our guide pointed out a blue dashed line across the parking lot of the IGA Grocery which marked the Georgia-Tennessee state line, dividing McCaysville, Georgia from Copperhill, Tennessee. We got off the train there and had a couple of hours to wander about the towns.

Of course we had to straddle the state line in the parking lot. Brenda is in Copperhill, Tennessee and Rod is in McCaysville, Georgia.

We walked to Tennessee and then back across the line into Georgia and crossed the river to have lunch at the Nifty 50's Cafe. Even the river is divided in this town. It flows northward into McCaysville and changes names to the Ocoee River at the state line when it crosses into Tennessee.

We reboarded the train and headed back toward Blue Ridge. The conductors and guides were volunteer train enthusiasts, and we had interesting conversations with them. John is a retired lawyer, and he had lots of tales of trains, and of lawyers. And yes, he does play Santa Claus and he drives a red pickup truck. He is active on the Santa Claus train that runs this route closer to Christmas.
We got another good view of the fishtrap in the Toccoa River on the way back, and just beyond it there was a guy in waders standing out in the river flyfishing. He looked pretty expert at it. We could envision him living in one of the houses along the river, and could just walk out in the river to go fishing.

We enjoyed the liesurely trainride back toward Blue Ridge. We could see the long part of the train stretching out ahead of us. We were now near the rear of the train and could watch the rear engine following.

As we approached Blue Ridge, our path diverged from the Toccoa River.

Another few minutes of travel through the colorful woods brought us back to Blue Ridge and the completion of a pleasant and relaxing trip.

Toccoa River Railway Bridge

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